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Dip In Mercury Sends Charcoal Prices Soaring

Charcoal selling has suddenly become the latest market bug

IMPHAL, Dec 23: With the onset of winter and cold waves gripping Manipur for the last few days, the price of charcoal in the market has been soaring in direct proportion to its demand.

At one time, every household in Manipur used to have Phunga that kept the house warm. But such fireplaces in the houses have given way to electrical appliances. Unfortunately, irregular power supply has forced many people to depend on the good old charcoal to keep themselves despite soaring prices.

Interacting with The Sangai Express, charcoal sellers at New Checkon Bazar of Imphal informed that price of charcoal which skyrocketed following the indefinite blockade along the National Highways has not come down.

Before the blockade, one bag of charcoal weighing 50 kg cost around Rs 270 to Rs 280. However, after the blockade and till today, the price has remained stuck at Rs 320 to Rs 330 per bag.

Earlier one sackful of charcoal used to cost Rs 350, but today it cost around Rs 410.

On account of the high price, the demand for charcoal had been remaining low even after one month of onset of winter. But with cold wave gripping the State over the last few days, the demand for charcoal has increased. Now, it is very easy to sell 10 to 20 sackfuls of charcoal in a day.

They informed that over the last few days, they have been selling one tinful of relatively bigger pieces of charcoal made from Saee (a type of tree considered to be superior in making charcoal) for Rs 60, relatively smaller pieces for Rs 50 while Rs 35 for very small pieces.

For families who cannot afford to buy charcoal in tins, the charcoal sellers have ingeniously adopted the policy of packing the charcoal in polythene bags which cost Rs 10 per bag.

However, for Rs 200, they offered 25 such polythene bagfuls of charcoal.

One woman who came to buy charcoal said that the price of charcoal this year is very high when compared to 2009.

But there is no choice or alternative in sight for the people.

‘˜We have heater, emersion rod, etc. But all of them are useless as there is no electricity. So we have to depend on charcoal for everything. When there is no cooking gas in the house, we also cooked with the help of charcoal”, the woman narrated.

On the eastern side of New Checkon Road, around 18 people including 13 women are selling charcoal to eke out their living.

They said that the charcoal being sold by them have been actually brought from the hills by some middlemen and they got it from the middlemen for selling again. So, when they approached these middlemen for reducing the price of charcoal, the middlemen maintained that the price has been high from the source itself and they can stop selling charcoal if they are unable to do so.

Even if there is high demand for charcoal on account of the cold waves, this would soon over and there would be difficult in selling the charcoal after some days, the charcoal sellers predicted, adding that rise in the price of charcoal would affect their livelihood as well.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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